Public Nuisances

Public Nuisances

By From the July/August 2011 issue

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Newt and Paul Ryan

WASHINGTON

How did so flawed a man as Newt Gingrich get to the top of his party in the 1990s? For that matter, how did so flawed a man as Bill Clinton get to the top of our government in the 1990s? And—here I am giving you a hint to the answer for the above questions—how did so flawed a man as Dominique Strauss-Kahn get to the top of the International Monetary Fund and of French politics? All are about the same age. All have similar, shall we say, recreations. The answer is that they came from what is called the 1960s Generation. Now they are gone. There will be temporary reprises—more court appearances for DSK, an occasional public appearance for Bill, some more catastrophic missteps on the campaign trail for Newt—but for all intents and purposes they are history.

In Europe and in America the 1960s Generation was pretty much the same. It was composed of student hustlers who became national political hustlers. Some were rock prodigies who continued as rock prodigies, rather pathetically into middle age and, rather absurdly, beyond. They did not amount to a majority of their generation but they claimed to typify it, and their cheerleaders went along with the sham. They were called the most idealistic generation ever and the call was close. Other idealistic generations, for instance the generation that founded this country, fared better. Unfortunately, the 1960s Generation was flawed from the start and never overcame its flaws.

Let us hope that we have seen the last of them. The other morning in the New York Times David Hajdu, an associate professor of journalism at Columbia University, marked Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday by noting how many voices from the 1960s had recently turned 70. John Lennon (RIP), Joan Baez, Paul Simon, and George Clinton were mentioned. Next year, Hajdu reverently enthused, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Brian Wilson, and Lou Reed will achieve their 70th. How long can this go on? Will no one from a younger generation note the obvious, to wit, in the arts and in politics the 1960s Generation was a bust?

There are no Faulkners, no Hemingways, no Fitzgeralds. There are no Aaron Coplands or a Virgil Thomson. In drama there is David Mamet, but that is about it. In Europe there may be a little more life in the 1960s has-beens but not much.

Newt is an especially loathsome figure, at least in his last phase, the presidential campaigner. Congressman Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has taken on the biggest challenge facing America since World War II and the Cold War, our enormous entitlement and budget overhang. In a way it is a graver challenge than World War II and the Cold War, because cowardly politicians can duck it for a few more years. Then the bond markets and the credit raters will step in, and it will be too late for America. Our years of prosperity will be over. Possibly even our years of national security will be gone. Ryan has faced the threat manfully and he has the Republicans in Congress with him for now.

So in his first week on the campaign trail, Newt undercut Ryan, and in his remarks on Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare, the would-be Republican presidential nominee has giv-en the Democrats a sound bite that they will play over and again: a corpulent Gingrich denouncing “right-wing extremism,” and holding forth against Chairman Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering.” Of course, it is not social engineering. Rather, Ryan wishes to control costs by his policy of “Premium Support,” a fixed-dollar subsidy allowing senior citizens to purchase private insurance options. The poor get adjustments on their premiums according to their need. The cost of health care will be controlled by market principles and consumer choice. Finally, the program will not go into effect for 10 years so we will have plenty of time to fine-tune it. For people 55 years of age and older, nothing will change with their Medicare.

Paul Ryan is going to campaign for his 2012 budget one way or the other. President Barack Obama has made him the most popular Republican in the country. The boob Gingrich has seconded the notion. Ryan might as well go whole hog. Campaign for the 2012 budget and for the presidency. There are increasing numbers of conservatives and independents pulling for him.

An Imposter’s Complaint

WASHINGTON

HERE WE ARE now in the afterglow of another Memorial Day. The flags and the bunting are being put away. The memories endure for another year of our honored dead, of the brave wounded, of the veterans—some grizzled, some still youthful—all deserving their country’s gratitude. Then there are the imposters, who have created often from zilch military honors, whole careers, records of heroism and splendid triumphs. What wretches!

One is Joseph Brian Cryer, 45, who claimed to be a U.S. Navy SEAL and boasted online of his “77 confirmed kills” during a glorious operation in Libya in 1986. A genuine SEAL, Don Shipley, exposed Cryer as an imposter. Shipley has taken it upon himself to expose frauds and veterans who engaud their war records. It must be a full-time occupation. This kind of thing happens surprisingly often, and very much in public. A best-selling historian was suspended for a year from his college teaching position for bragging to his students of his Vietnam War feats, and, oh yes, he claimed exploits on the football field too. Both claims were fabrications. Now with SEAL Team 6’s exploits in snagging Osama bin Laden, SEALs are turning up everywhere.

Cryer admitted his hoax to the Washington Examiner, explaining that he confected the story as “a coping mechanism” because of some grievance he had against the Navy. He did serve in the Navy in the 1980s, but as a seaman, not as a SEAL. I thought a “coping mechanism” was a euphemism for drowning one’s problems in booze or some other addiction. Now a coping mechanism is a lie. Well, it did not help Cryer.

Actually, in Cryer’s case his embellishments are somewhat understandable. He was running for office. He was a candidate for city council in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2006. He was just doing what a lot of successful politicians do. They run claiming achievements that are completely fictional and those who are caught often win office anyway.

Remember Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut? He ran for the Senate claiming, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” That was a lie, but the Hon. Blumenthal repeated it in various forms throughout his campaign. In truth, he received no less than five military deferments and finally a sweet job in the Marine Reserve. He also lied about his athletic career. Contrary to his claim, he never was captain of the Harvard swimming team, or even swam on the team. The voters elected him nonetheless.

How many other whoppers had this fraud told pursuant to becoming a member of the U.S. Senate in 2010? I would suggest his record abounds with them. However, so does the record of countless other politicians. There is Jimmy Carter claiming to be a nuclear engineer. There is Senator Jean-François Kerry, launching his campaign for the presidency as a war hero, despite his taped appearance before Congress denouncing the war and alleging that his comrades committed war crimes. There is Al Gore getting ensnared in a thicket of petty lies beginning with his campaigns for the Senate, continuing with his campaigns for the presidency, and culminating with his present campaign where he serves as the world’s chief proponent and exploiter of global warming. It has made him millions, and forget not the Clintons. They are the longest running con act in American history, with Bill conning his draft board and Hillary creating her visit to a Marine recruiter—or was it an Army recruiter?

So I can understand if Joseph Brian Cryer feels a little abused. Had he won his campaign for city council he would be on his way to greatness. He could have been a Joe Biden. Maybe from the city council he would have sought the governorship, possibly the Senate. By then he would have received a Purple Heart, possibly the Congressional Medal of Honor. He had his whole life before him until the spoiler Shipley struck. Shipley has denied the masses another hero. How many more politicians’ lives will Shipley destroy? 

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.